Desserts to me is like Kryptonite to Superman. I love sweets as much as the next guy but cooking dessert is not one of my strengths. I can grill up some decent appetizers and main courses but cooking dessert on a grill presents a whole host of challenges especially with the 30-minute time limit.
I knew that to win on Chopped Grill Masters, I had to up my dessert game so I started by going through the list of desserts that could be done in 30 minutes or less.
The list of ideas I came up with included Creme Anglais, Strawberry Coulis, Whipped Cream, Chocolate Sauce, Caramel Sauce, and various types of sweet batters and fritters that could be done in a compressed time frame.
I tried baking a cake or cupcake in an outdoor grill and failed miserably so I dropped those from my list. Plating desserts was also not my strength, so I spent many practice sessions improving my plating skills in an outdoor setting. I also practiced making ice cream hoping that there would be an ice cream machine on the outdoor Grill Master set in NY.
The Chopped Grill Masters Journey, Part IV
By Donna Fong
Going into the contest, it seemed like my weaknesses were Harry’s strengths & vice versa. Desserts, if I made it, seemed a more comfortable fit. Any Asian ingredient or Asian inspired cooking would be his strength. Living next to the Pacific and spending 6 years in Boston, made me comfortable with all types of shellfish. Opening up a basket with a live abalone, sea urchin, or oyster was no problem. But ask me to make you a plate of mu shu pork and I start gasping for air. The wok and I are not friends.
Harry’s presentations were explosive; a showcase of color and shapes dancing on the plate. He knows how to make a Styrofoam box of BBQ look delicious. That talent was magnified when you took away the 9×9 box. It was totally unfair. Whenever Harry cooked for me during this time, I remember looking at my plate of food and reminding myself that I am truly screwed. My only solace was the lack luster dessert he’d make. They would be goopy, flat or not crispy. His only big success was an apple funnel cake parfait which was perfection.
In 2014, my BBQ team won Dessert Team of the Year in California. My daughter and I baked our knit picky hearts out and beat Harry in a race that was closer than I’d like to admit. He was only able to rank higher than us once, despite all of his efforts. Our mutual need for precision had won us the first-time prize. I didn’t mind losing to Harry but it made my daughter crazy to not beat him every time.
Harry’s lack of investment of time or effort, or a store-bought box of commercial cake mix never received a 1st place in dessert except once in a contest. It was during those moments of victory that I knew my daughter had inherited every competitive gene in my body plus her father’s genes. During a science project, she once expressed her disappointment in my portioning skills for cookie dough, saying that a “real scientist” should never “eyeball” anything. It’d be a long time before she could trust me with the melon-baller again. I’m fairly certain this behavior in her is entirely my fault.